Following on from our publication of “Arsenal: The Long Sleep” for which Bob Wilson wrote the introduction, we are genuinely honoured today to have an article today from John Radford on Untold Arsenal.
John joined Arsenal in 1962 and over the next 14 years made 475 starts for Arsenal, scored 149 goals, and won the Fairs Cup, the Football League, and the FA Cup.
May I take this opportunity to thank John not only for providing a really interesting and fun article for Untold Arsenal, which I am sure you will enjoy, but also for all the pleasure his performances in an Arsenal shirt across the years gave me personally, as a supporter of the club.
Thank you John. I always have the fondest memories. Tony Attwood
My early days as an Arsenal first team player
By John Radford
I well remember the day before my debut in Arsenal’s senior side. It was Friday 20th March 1964, just a month after my 17th birthday. In those days we youngsters had to do all sorts of menial tasks around the place and one of them that day was to clean the baths at Highbury stadium. I was scrubbing away when the next thing I knew, our manager Billy Wright was standing watching me.
“John, you’ll need to rest up a bit when you’ve finished doing that.” he said looking serious.
“Why’s that?” I replied a bit puzzled.
“Because you’re playing at West Ham tomorrow.” he said and walked away leaving me stunned as you can well imagine.
I was in only because Joe Baker, our top scorer had been suspended for fighting with Liverpool centre half Ron Yeats in an FA Cup tie at Highbury the previous month – it took much longer then for punishments to be effected.
The next day we took the team coach from Highbury to West Ham. Near their ground we went over a hump backed bridge near Upton Park tube station. Well, as we arrived over that bridge all I could see was thousands of fans of both clubs milling around shouting and waving. I can tell you I went cold! I must admit the game itself seems to have passed me by a bit but I do just about remember Alan Skirton scoring to earn us a draw.
I didn’t play again until the following November when I came in for a couple of games after Jon Sammels was injured and the boss thought I deserved another chance – I’d been scoring quite well in the Football Combination.
Funny enough it was West Ham again but we lost 3-0 to them at home and could only draw 0-0 with West Brom at the Hawthorns so I was out again for the next match. That was Manchester United at Highbury and Billy Wright put Frank McLintock at inside right in my place. Frank was a great player but even he would admit that he wasn’t cut out for that role!
Just two days into 1965 I was recalled to face Wolves, who were bottom of the league at that time, at Highbury. By half time we were 3-1 up and I’d scored my first senior goal – two of them in fact and Joe had got the other. In the second half Alan Skirton crossed a beauty and I managed to turn it past MacLaren their goalie. I can still remember my team mates mobbing me. A hat trick and I became one of the youngest players ever to achieve that feat in the top division.
Another one I remember well was against Bolton in a FA Cup replay a couple of years later. We’d been held to a draw at Burnden Park the previous Saturday and the replay was back at Highbury under lights the following Wednesday.
I reckon Bolton came to get another draw and a further replay on a neutral ground for it was still 0-0 at half time. That all changed after about 20 minutes in when I went clean through their defence and scored from about 15 yards out. Two minutes later Hopkinson their ‘keeper miskicked straight to Geordie (Armstrong) who fed me immediately for my second. Just a minute later Peter Simpson crossed and I headed home from about 8 yards out. Three in four minutes – is that the quickest in the FA Cup? I don’t know but it must surely be one of them.
What you may not know about me was my ability in those days as a shot stopper in goal, which I proved in a FA Cup semi-final against Stoke in 1972. Bob Wilson was injured late in the second half and I took over for the last 15 minutes.
They couldn’t get one past me that day and I loved every minute of it. After training, we used to have this little flutter amongst the lads. I would go in goal and they would each take three penalties. I had to save one of them to take the kitty. So it was 50p for the first shot. If it went in, it was double or quits for £1; and if that went in it doubled up again to £2. And do you know what? I earned more in that way than I did in wages.
There’s a new detailed review of The Long Sleep now on the Arsenal History Society Site, and the book itself is available in a printed edition and on Kindle from Amazon – just click on the links below.
- You can order the Kindle edition from Amazon here
- You can order the printed edition direct from the publishers
You might also enjoy The date no Arsenal fan will ever forget by Bob Wilson.